I remember being in high school and looking for someone to look up to. Someone who was different, because I felt different. And I didn’t know that being different was okay back then. And I’m glad I found someone who proved me that it was not only okay, but also a strength to rely on.
Going back 10 years ago, things were different. And I’m glad I had someone to set a stepping stone in the acceptance of who I was and staying true to myself.
Visual-kei wasn’t much known in any part of the world outside of Japan and those who liked that kind of music already. And guess what ? I did like that kind of music.
So naturally, when a new band came to be known all across Europe, and later on the US and Russia and various parts of the world, it was with a great pleasure that I sunk into their music.
I first heard Lovesongs (They Kill Me) on the radio, and immediately went to buy their album. Who was that band ? And what did they look like ?
CINEMA BIZARRE. That’s what their name was. And after two successful albums, multiple hit singles that could still be played on the radio or in clubs (depending on which ones), they decided to call it quit (*sad cries*).
I remember seeing how they looked for the first time, and thinking to myself « wow, these guys rock. And they look like characters from an anime ! That’s so awesome ». And it was an improvement for someone like me, coming from a small town, afraid of liking or being who I wanted, to actually say « I love a band who’s very much different from anything I’ve known till now, but they sure as hell rock better and louder than the naysayers ».
Anyway, this isn’t a post to talk about my little problems from 10 years ago.
This is an article to write about someone. Someone that I looked up to in high school, and someone that I still look up these days.
Singer for Cinema Bizarre, it’s to the sound of his music and lyrics that I spent some of the toughest times of my teenager-years. You’ll get why I really want to do the artist justice by publishing these lines.
Who remember these ?
Yeah. And I bet after this you’re probably gonna go back and listen to them again !
When the band decided to go on hiatus, singer/songwriter Jack Strify decided to pursue his career on his own. And he was right to do it !
Shortly after, he granted us with the outing of one of his songs (Blasphemy) remixed by famous DJ Junior Caldera, and then took it upon himself to out 1 EP (Glitter+Dirt) and 1 LP (Illusion).
(and you can also go buy those down here ⤵️ and watch two of the music videos for Illusion ) (keep going below for the interview 😉 )
Nowadays, fashionista and blogger, his career is still going strong and he’s letting us know ! (Check out his blog here )
As Cinema Bizarre’s debut album is about to turn 10 years old, I wanted to take a look back on what those 10 years had been like for Strify and what the future holds for him !
So it’s with great pleasure and honor that I’m introducing to you the interview he had the kindness to answer to.
- Hello Strify, thank you for your time. It’s a pleasure to be able to talk with you. The first question I’d like to ask is, how do you feel knowing that in october, Final Attraction will be 10 ?
It’s incredible that 10 years have already passed since the release of the album. Things were all happening in such a rush that year and it was amazing! We only realized in between what was going on and hardly couldn’t enjoy it because there was so much to do. Taking a look back at the album today, I believe it has aged quite well and some songs could still do well on the radio today. In my eyes, the album is iconic!
- What was it like to be 19 and in a rock band, defying everything that was known in EU/US in the rock scene, considering visual-kei was known just by a few ? You had quite the look (Personal opinion: I thought you looked like Final Fantasy heroes and I loved you guys for that too)
We had that certain look before anything was released so that actually didn’t feel that new.Of course suddenly there were make up artists and stylists involved and we were in a way treated like a raw diamond but the biggest difference was that suddenly people started celebrating us for who we were unlike people in our small hometowns that only ever saw us as freaks.
- In 2007, Final Attraction came out, what was the conception like ? Did you have a theme for the record or just sang the songs that you had written ?
The first demos we recorded two years prior to signing the record deal were acually covers of Duran Duran and Dead or Alive So there was definitely some direction from the very beginning. We wanted to call us PARADOX back then, which became BIZARRE and you probbaly know what that turned into eventually. The name of the album originally should have been Fatal Attraction but we didn’t use it because we were afraid of copyright infringement. The name that made it was so much better in the end because it actually was a reference to Final Fantasy and a perfect title to introduce us as a visual band.
- A year later, TOYZ came out, you didn’t take long to write the second record, did you already have all the songs ready for it ? How was it different to write, lyrics and music, from your previous record ?
For TOYZ, we were so much more involved that on the first record. In between shows, I often took time to visit the studio or talk with producers. Also, many ideas have been born on tour. We worked on the album for almost 6 months so it wasn’t such a short time as you might think but everything was finally recorded within two weeks in the end. I thought that Heaven is wrapped in chains should have been the first single because it represented the record as an album much better than I Came 2 party but the record company was so hyped by the fact that it was produced by Red One who also did Gaga’s first hits.
- You opened for Lady Gaga in 2009, what memories do you have from that tour ? Was it fun ? Was it hard ? Did you ever consider her for a featuring on an album ?
People are still amazed when I tell them that I’ve toured with Gaga and I will be forever grateful for that oppurtunity. The untold story behind the tour is that actually initially a duet was planned for our American release Bang!. We’ve been working with the same people from the record company in France and the US and they told us about the new artist Gaga long time before she actually released anything. I fell in love the moment I saw and heard her and thought it was a match made in heaven… I mean Bizarre, Gaga – it’s obvious J
However, she postponed the studio date a few times because her own career hit off and the duet never happened. I hadn’t met her personally back then and when she came to Berlin to open for The Pussycat Dolls in 2008 I asked my record company if we could meet her backstage. They arranged something and we met Gaga after her show (tbh, it was HER show and not the Dolls). A week after meeting her, my maneger called and told me Gaga asked us to open for her tour. I found out later that after she had met us, she went to her tour bus and watched all our music videos and told her team that „she loves us and that there’s nothing like us in the States“. The rest is history J
The shows were a lot of hard work but I loved every single second of it. Gaga was the sweetest person you could imagine and during the tour we got to spent some time with her during aftershow partys or backstage. After out last show in Atlanta I was externely sad that the tour was already over and wanted to spend some time alone in the tour bus while the other ones were celebrating. Apparently, Gaga told my band that she would have loved to spend more time with us on tour… the whole team, her friends like Lady Starlight and Gaga herself were incredibly kind and made the whole tour very special for us.
- Do you still keep in touch with the old members of Cinema Bizarre ?
Occasionally, yes. I’ve worked a lot with Shin who started making films already during the time with the band.
- What was one of the most memorable moment you have from back then ?
Our first TV performance ever was in front of tens of thousand people and I almost peed myself back then. I was so afraid but the reason why we were so great and the band we were is because I always followed one simple rule: Just do it and don’t eb afraid to make a fool of yourself. I never understood why people are so easily embarrased or afraid to look stupid. I love to get stupid! J
However, during that day I had an eye infection and I need to wear contact lenses which I couldn’t do that day. So, I was basically blind during that performance. Another amazing thing were the NRJ music awards in Cannes. We walked the red carpet twice and I still remember meeting Rihanna who thought we looked hot. I think she liked our guitar player, Yu.
- What were your favorite songs to perform ? ( Personally, off FA my favorite song is Escape To The Stars, and off TOYZ it’s torn between Touching And Kissing and Out Of Love)
After the release of our first album and all the touring and promo work, my voice got really tired and I had some problems. I was close to getting knots in my vocal cords and needed vocal rest. So on the second album we were working on some songs that would be a bit easier to sing every night live during a tour. My voice kinda changed in that time. You see, we didn’t have a lot of touring experience at first and I didn’t know how it could affect my singing. I feel like much oft he material on TOYZ was more mature and I still prefer singing it live today. Je ne regrette rien and Touching and Kissing are among my favourites. I also love Heaven is Wrapped in Chains but I was afraid to perform it during the Toyz tour after my painful experience and only dared to during my first solo tour Strange New World.
- On TOYZ, there’s a song called Je Ne Regrette Rien, do you speak a little French ?
Yes, I studied French in school for a few years and even did my Abitur (le bac) in French.
- Who wrote the songs ? Where did you find inspiration ?
For great parts, I co-wrote a lot of songs with Michelle Leonard who also penned Lovesongs. She is brilliant and we got together again when I worked on my solo album.
- What were your favorite places to tour ?
Germany, France, Russia, Spain, Italy, the US… it was so incredible to get to see so many countries. In one year, were played over 50 different countries and I just turned 20. That was amazing! After our last tour we intended to go to South America but things turned out different and we ended up in an hiatus before breaking it off.
- Closing on the 10 years of Final Attraction, would you consider doing a reunion with the members of CB and touring for the album ? Would you consider coming back from the hiatus and outing a new album ?
I understand the desire of many die-hard fans for one last concert and it makes me proud and so happy that even after 10 years people are still asking about it. It’s not that I never considered it but I just don’t see it happening. We met one more time after breaking up and wanted to see how things are going and eventually it seemed to me that we took the right decision.
INTERVIEW PART TWO: JACK STRIFY
- You did a featuring for the remix song Blasphemy with DJ Junior Caldera, was it in that moment that you decided to go solo or was it something that you wanted for a little while ?
Caldera heard the song from a record company executive in France who knew that I intended to work on solo material and when he contacted me fort he remix I thought it was a great idea. I still didn’t know in which direction I wanted to go back then. Originally, we even planned to shoot a video for the song.
- What do you like the most: being in a band, or having your own solo career ?
That’s a tough question and I wouldn’t want to decide. At first, I actually thought about forming a new band, but maybe just a duo. I never found anyone to go for it whom I felt right, so I did go solo in the end. I’ve always been one to make a lot of decisions with Cinema Bizarre and solo, so that wasn’t such a difference. But on tour and also in the studio I love having people around me who go through the same experience as I am.
- You created a whole new world and a whole new artist with Glitter + Dirt and Illusion, how did you push yourself to get to that level of artistry ?
For Glitter + Dirt, my first EP, I probably worked on over 20 songs with different producers but it just didn’t feel like a whole record. I was looking for a thread within those songs and saw escapism in the songs that finally made it. On Illusion, we knew we were going to write an album from the very beginning and Michelle just killed it on so many levels. She is the best songwriter in Germany and working with her is always an indrecible experience. I am happy to call her my friend and in many ways the whole album is a collaboration of the two of us. There are many things that were rushed in the end oft he production of the album that didn’t make me completely happy but I don’t like to talk about it in detail because I could spoil the experience of a listener. Anyway, I am so proud of that album and so happy that you also embraced it with open arms.
- You used PledgeMusic to finance Illusion, how was it different doing this all by yourself than being backed by a label ?
Apart from the creative directions and decisions that you usually take and take care of as an artist, there were so many logistics, business and financial aspects that suddenly didn’t fall into a label’s hands but needed to be handled completely by our camp (which basically only consisted of three people). In the end, it was a great way to realise the album and make it all happen but in the end I also felt a little bit overwhelmed because there were many things I have never done before. It was a great learning experience but I also have felt let down in parts by my management but that’s a whole different story.
- What was the most personal song you wrote for those albums ?
They all come from a personal place but you take a look at my story through a kaleidoscope or a looking glass. That always happens when you read a story, a poem or hear a song – you see it with your own eyes and it becomes distorted. That’s what we did while writing those songs, we looked at things that were going on in my life and put a kaleidoscope on it, we distorted it in some way. Now you look at it with your own looking glass and my story becomes your story. That’s the reason why the whole album is called ILLUSION.
But I can tell you that 2013 was a difficult year for me. My father died, my relationship ended and this put me through some struggle that you can find in songs like Angel or The Matrix. When you suddenly find yourself in a place in which you can only try to reach for a friend or a helping hand or a miracle that’s what angel is about. When you can’t seem to understand why certain things and tragedies suddenly come into your life and you try to find any reason or system behind it, that’s what The Matrix is about. I always wanted to write an ever more personal song for my father but I always felt like no words could do it justice. I hope that one day I will be able to write that song.
- You performed all over the world for those albums, how did it feel, being all alone out there ? I mean, I know there were musicians, but as in, not being in a band anymore and being really you, really alone on stage ?
As a band, we always had our little rituals on stage and off stage. There always was certainty that someone has your back or that you pushed yourself to be your best even if you feel like weren’t able to that day. That was missing in the beginning. But you find your own rituals and habits that give you the same kind of feeling.
- If you could work or wished you could have worked with an artist in particular, who would it be ?
There are many songwriters and producers that I admire. Rick Nowels for example, he worked with Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, Madonna and currently with Lana Del Rey. If I could put together my dream team for a project I would want to write songs with him, let William Orbit produce it. Then I’d shoot a video with Jonas Akerlund and do a photoshoot with Steven Klein. Let me dream! J
Apart from that I would love to work with some DJ/producer who work with different singers for their albums. You know, like Disclosure. I’m a big fan of their work.
- If you had to use one movie or one artist to draw your inspiration from, who or what would that be ?
Two artists that never cease to inspire and impress me are definitely Madonna and David Bowie. I’m studying their body of work like fine art and will always admire them. There are many other artists that I adore but in a way I always see little of Bowie or Madonna in the aspects I like in their artistry so naming these two is very accurate. Bowie must have been the greatest musician and lyricist ever to walk this planet and Madonna is the one who invented the modern pop star and was always ahead of her time. Apart from all her controversies and the things people love to talk about, I think of her as a brilliant songwriter.
- You are now committed to your career as fashionista and fashion-blogger, you are a full complete artist, is there anything else you’d like to try or improve in your set of qualities ?
Thank you fort he compliment, I love doing my blog but it’s just something on the side. As a digital native who started with MySpace, it seemed like a logical consequence to have my own personal webspace and it felt way overdue. But on another note, I’ve always dreamed of playing in a movie. That is the one thing I still didn’t get the chance to.
- Would you consider advising on fashion or creating a fashion show based on your universe, whether it’s back to the roots CB universe, Jack Strify universe or Jack Strify 2.0 universe ?
No, I want to inspire by living and doing. I always feel like fashion advise is so impersonal and elitist and fashion shows are utterly judgmental. Now, I’m no angel either and I am never shy of stating my own opinion but advising people that I hardly know on their fashion choices doesn’t really seem like fun to me.
- What are your plans for the future ?
I’ve never talked about this before but I’ve had a very long period in which I’ve felt depressed and that held me back from going back to the studio or working on something creative. But in my head, i already have the ideas of either an experimental EP that explores gender (working title: androgyny) or a full album that deals with night life in Berlin and with people looking for love in all the wrong places. But that vision is just an abstract concept right now. I’m looking for people with whom I can work on those ideas and I hope to at leat put out a new song this year. I’ll be in LA next month and I think that might be another inspiration for me.
I’d like to thank Jack Strify for answering these questions, and say that I’m looking forward to see what the future holds for him ! 🙂